Asif holds sway over Australia

Australia lose seven wickets for just 51 runs in overcast conditions as Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, continues to flop at Lord's.

Mohammad Aamer, left, of Pakistan celebrates taking the wicket of Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, at Lord's yesterday.
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LONDON // The swing bowler Mohammad Asif's spell of three wickets in seven balls tilted day one of the first Test in Pakistan's favour as Australia collapsed to 229 for nine at Lord's before bad light stopped play yesterday. Australia were in a promising position at 171 for two just before tea. However, they lost seven wickets for just 51 runs in 23 overs as Asif (3-53) and new-ball partner Mohammad Aamer (3-66) impressed in bowler-friendly, overcast conditions, as Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, continued to toil at Lord's.

The opener Simon Katich made a patient 80 but was one of Asif's victims in a crucial spell either side of tea. Michael Clarke (47) was trapped lbw to an inswinger on the final ball of the second session before Katich and Marcus North (zero) fell shortly after. Asif's and Pakistan's fortunes turned for the better after he was switched to the Pavilion End from the Nursery End, with Katich and Clarke having put on 120 for the third wicket.

Mike Hussey helped stretch Australia's total with a gritty unbeaten 39 and Doug Bollinger (zero) was the other not-out batsman at the close of play. Both teams gave Test debuts to two players. Pakistan selected the batsmen Umar Amin and Azhar Ali, while Australia picked the leg-spinner Steven Smith and the reserve wicketkeeper Tim Paine in the absence of the injured Brad Haddin. The start of the match was delayed by 90 minutes because of a damp outfield but when play did begin, the left-armer Aamer caused the opener Shane Watson (four) immediate problems with his ability to swing the ball both ways.

Watson chose to leave a delivery in the fifth over, only to see it swing back into him and strike him on the pads. On the next ball, Watson again decided to leave but was struck once more on his pads. As the umpire Ian Gould was raising his arm to give Watson out lbw, the ball bounced onto leg stump and dislodged a bail. Watson was given out bowled. Ponting continued his lean trot at Lord's when the legendary batsman managed just 26 runs against Pakistan.

The man who is considered one of cricket's best batsmen in the modern era and often spoken about in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara - has nearly 12,000 runs and 39 hundreds to his credit in the five-day game. In fact, the Australia captain moved ahead of Lara (11,953 runs) into second place on the all-time run scorers' list when he reached 14 not out in tough batting conditions. But he was dismissed shortly thereafter, superbly caught by Umar Amin, the debutant, off the bowling of Aamer.

During his exuberant celebrations, Aamer clashed elbows with Ponting and both players looked back at one another. Whether or not the incident was accidental was unclear. The right-hander's best at the game's most revered ground remains 42, and at age 35, it seems unlikely he will have the opportunity to score a century there - a feat most batsmen look forward to - unless he can do it in Australia's second innings of this game.

That, however, would be the least of Ponting's concerns as the visitors struggled all day. Katich, fortunate to survive an lbw appeal from Aamer when on two, may also have been lucky when on 24 after an appeal for lbw to Danish Kaneria. Katich came through his early struggles and finished with nine boundaries in his 138-ball stay. Hussey passed the 200 mark with a swept six off Kaneria over square leg, then followed that up next ball by driving through extra cover for four.

Paine (seven) endured a tough time before he was caught behind, with the score 206 for six, and fellow debutant Smith (one) was given lbw to Kaneria even though he got an inside edge on to his pad. Mitchell Johnson (three) was bowled by a Kaneria leg-break, while Ben Hilfenhaus (one) was bowled by Aamer. Pakistan, captained for the first time by Shahid Afridi, was seeking its first Test victory over Australia in 15 years. The Australians were chasing a seventh straight Test victory. * AP

Australia (1stinnings): Shane Watson b Aamer 4 Simon Katich c K Akmal b Asif 80 Ricky Ponting c Amin b Aamer 26 Michael Clarke lbw b Asif 47 Mike Hussey not out 39 Marcus North b Asif 0 Tim Paine c K Akmal b Gul 7 Steven Smith lbw b Kaneria 1 Mitchell Johnson b Kaneria 3 Ben Hilfenhaus b Aamer 1 Doug Bollinger not out 0 Extras: (2lb, 10b, 8nb, 1w) 21 Total: (for 9 wickets, 70 overs) 229 Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-51, 3-171, 4-174, 5-174, 6-206, 7-208, 8-213, 9-222. Bowling: Mohammad Aamer 18-2-66-3 (1w), Mohammad Asif 17-5-53-3, Umar Gul 14-3-24-1 (7nb), Danish Kaneria 18-7-49-2 (1nb), Shahid Afridi 3-0-25-0.